Orecchiette with broccoli, anchovies, and chili pepper

Orecchiette with Broccoli, Anchovies, and Chili Pepper

This a quick, simple, and savory recipe from Puglia that uses one of winter’s fresh veggies in a new way.

In Puglia, orecchiette (“little ears”) pasta with cime di rapa, anchovies, and hot pepper is very popular (cime di rapa is similar to broccoli raab in bitterness and taste, but they’re different). Using broccoli in place of the cime di rapa makes this a quick dish with ingredients that are readily available practically anywhere, all year round. Broccoli seems to be something I come back to a lot in the winter. The dish has become a Pugliese favorite in its own right, using broccoli instead of cime di rapa.

This recipe shows how easily Italians use just a few ingredients to create delicious food. It’s a filling pasta, but not heavy; and sometimes I crave this as much as I want a richer plate of pasta alla carbonara.

Use anchovies conserved in salt whenever you can; they last a long time and won’t go rancid, as the oil can sometimes do in oil-packed anchovies.

Also, a note on cooking the broccoli: Americans tend to like a lesser-cooked vegetable, which keeps its colors bright and its texture non-mushy. Overcooked veggies remind people of cooking in the ’70s or something. But allow yourself to cook the broccoli for a little bit longer in this recipe, because it will break apart easier and form a sort of sauce that catches on all the curves of the pasta. As Paolo notes in his guest post in The Basic Rules of Italian Food,

Cauliflowers, broccoli, green beans are generally cooked through. Italians are not big fans of the “green” flavor of these vegetables.

Orecchiette with broccoli, anchovies, and chili pepper

Recipe slightly adapted from La Cucina Regionale Italiana: Puglia by La Repubblica

Orecchiette with broccoli, anchovies, and chili pepper

Ingredients for 4 people
320 gr pasta (fusilli or penne work well; also orecchiette)
2 heads of broccoli, about 1 kg
5-6 whole anchovies, rinsed and cleaned of bones
Extra virgin olive oil
Hot chili pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic

1) Cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces and boil in salted water. Remove the broccoli but do not discard the water. Cook the broccoli until quite well-done, about 10 minutes; it will break apart and form a sort of sauce if not too al dente.

2) Boil the pasta in the broccoli water, adding more water if necessary.

3) While the pasta is boiling, mince the garlic and chop up the anchovies. Sauté in olive oil, smashing the anchovies with a wooden spoon until it forms a paste. Toss in the broccoli and hot pepper and mix well.

4) When the pasta is cooked al dente, add it to the broccoli mix and serve.

Note: To be a genuinely Italian dish, don’t add cheese to your plate! I know, it’s tempting…but try it without first (and give yourself a couple of bites to get used to it). The anchovies and hot pepper give it savoriness and saltiness, and the cheese just adds something that isn’t needed.

At least, according to the Italians.

This is part of my Italian Pasta Journey. I want to explore Italy by way of its huge variety of traditional pasta dishes. Check out my post and the other recipes as I add them.

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